Individual Diversity and Psychology in Organizations

Individual Diversity and Psychology in Organizations

Individual Diversity and Psychology in Organizations

Individual Diversity and Psychology in Organizations


Workplace initiatives to manage diversity seek to fully develop the potential of each employee and turn their unique skills into a business advantage. Such fostering of difference enhances team creativity, innovation and problem-solving and is therefore an essential strategy for today's employers.

Individual Diversity and Psychology in Organizations is an indispensable handbook for all those involved in managing diversity. Its academic and practice-oriented perspective is unique as it presents practical strategies and case studies alongside academic reviews, giving the reader a balanced overview of each topic. The team of expert authors examine international issues in diversity, such as:
  • Strategies for managing organizational effectiveness Legal and psychological implications
  • Diversity training and its effectiveness Disability, racial equality, age and gender diversity Affirmative action
  • Recognizing stereotypes and bias
  • Business ethics
  • The Future of diversity
This much needed handbook will be welcomed by researchers, academics and students in organizational psychology, management and business. It will also be of great use to professionals in human resources, equal opportunities management and management consultancy.


The phenomenon of managing diversity in the workplace is relatively new and has only appeared in the published literature over the past decade or so. Not surprisingly, as is evidenced throughout this book, there is still some controversy over what we actually mean by diversity. Nevertheless, a proposed definition by Kandola and Fullerton (1994:8) provides an acceptable starting point:

The basic concept of managing diversity accepts that the workforce consists of a
diverse population of people. The diversity consists of visible and non-visible dif
ferences, which will include factors such as sex, age, background, race, disability,
and personality and work style. It is founded on the premise that harnessing these
differences will create a productive environment in which everybody feels valued,
where their talents are being fully utilized and in which organizational goals are met.

During the 1970s, in most Western countries, much emphasis was placed on achieving equal employment opportunities and reducing discrimination in organizations by way of introducing equal opportunity (EO) legislation, particularly aimed at sex and race. However, the lack of success of imposed EO legislation has not only sometimes led to degrees of resistance or 'backlash' (particularly in countries with affirmative action legislation), but also often failed to successfully create EO by expecting employees of different gender and backgrounds to assimilate, once in the organization (Davidson & Burke, 2000).

Therefore, the assumptions underlying EO were consequently similar to those behind the melting pot of a country. Assumptions such as these are problematic, as the specific culture and uniqueness of individuals are undermined. Moreover, Burn (1996) proposed that the metaphor of the melting pot should be exchanged for that of the salad bowl, as it reflects how different cultures can combine and still preserve their own 'flavour'. The underlying assumptions of managing diversity are in line with the philosophy behind the salad bowl, as both concepts emphasize the value of individual differences (Liff & Wajcman, 1996).

Thus, the concept of managing diversity has gained popularity since the early 1990s, and has also been fuelled by changing demographic trends (e.g. the increasing proportion of minority groups in the US workforce and by the increasingly multicultural and international business environment (Cassell, 1997)). Consequently, the focus has also switched towards making EO attractive to employers via the business case of diversity management. Organizations can no longer afford to discriminate against applicants and employees on the basis of gender, age, race, disability, etc., because firstly, many skilled employees would be forgone, and secondly, competitiveness will increasingly depend on the ability to satisfy and understand customers from different cultures and backgrounds.

This handbook addresses issues relevant to successfully managing diversity initiatives in organizations. While it attempts to take a cross-cultural approach, unfortunately to . . .

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